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Entries from November 1, 2007 - November 30, 2007

Grab upgrade points on eBay while they last!

Should you need them, points are for sale cheap on eBay by some of these East coasters. I may need to PayPal me some given the fact that the poop stick got whipped at me this season bumping me outside the kind points leaving a dirty sanchez kind a smell in my memory.

Snowers tomorrow thus rollers as I don't need to get sick and racing at the Rez before Golden in Sunday although I could use the sand work. Plus, mi famiglia and I are grabbing the tree tomorrow for the holidays. Ho ho ho.

See you monkeys Sunday.

What is Cyclocross?

This video by CTodd will either help our evangelism of the sport' sgrowth when we shop it to parks and rec people and the like, or ban it due to it being a sport of a bunch of crazy people. HA!

Either way, I love you CTodd. This is gdamn hilarious.

'Cross makes the New York Times!

Check out this article in today's NYT!!:

Cyclocross: Mud, Sweat and Gears

T. C. Worley for The New York Times

UP AND OVER Mark Weispfenning, one of 160 competitors at the Grumpy’s cyclocross race in Blaine, Minn., leaps a barrier as he holds his cross bike.

Published: November 30, 2007

ABOVE the pool of filth, but still within the shadow of the ditch, my bike skidded sideways in muck. “Heads up!” yelled a fellow racer, elbow out, body a blur.

Skip to next paragraph

Interest Guide

T. C. Worley for The New York Times

THE DIRT A cyclocross race in Blaine, Minn., covered grass, gravel and mud.

It was lap No. 5 at Grumpy’s CX, a cyclocross bike race in Blaine, Minn., and I was fighting for position in a deep gulch of mud.

“On your left!” a rider yelled, tires squishing through the ooze.

The race had kicked off 20 minutes before, a crush of cyclists squeezing through a start gate to the two-kilometer course beyond. What would come included a gravel track, pavement, grass, switchback climbs and multiple knee-high barriers that forced riders to dismount, shoulder their rigs and hurdle on foot before hopping back on their bikes to race away.

Cyclocross, a growing off-road discipline, appears at first to be an amalgam of BMX bike racing and road riding. The sport’s short, looped courses include obstacles, ramps, bumps, sand pits, sharp turns and lots of the aforementioned mud — all navigated on a road-bike-like cycle that has drop-bar handles, skinny tires and no suspension.

Read the rest of the Times' article HERE!

Beer hoarding

So first Vantornout (the kid I LOVED and pegged last year as making his mark this year) starts flapping his lips on how it woudl have been an insult if Page won Worlds last year and now THIS! The Belgians are conspiring against us even though we saved their asses in the Ardennes in '44. Ingrates.

Thanks Dave for forwarding this incredibly important WSJ article.
Trappist Command:
Thou Shalt Not Buy Too Much of Our Beer

Monks at St. Sixtus Battle
Resellers of Prized Brew;
Brother Joris Plays Hardball

November 29, 2007; Page A1

WESTVLETEREN, Belgium -- The Trappist monks at St. Sixtus monastery have taken vows against riches, sex and eating red meat. They speak only when necessary. But you can call them on their beer phone.

[westvleteren beer]

Cassandra Vinograd

Monks have been brewing Westvleteren beer at this remote spot near the French border since 1839. Their brew, offered in strengths up to 10.2% alcohol by volume, is among the most highly prized in the world. In bars from Brussels to Boston, and online, it sells for more than $15 for an 11-ounce bottle -- 10 times what the monks ask -- if you can get it.

For the 26 monks at St. Sixtus, however, success has brought a spiritual hangover as they fight to keep an insatiable market in tune with their life of contemplation.

The monks are doing their best to resist getting bigger. They don't advertise and don't put labels on their bottles. They haven't increased production since 1946. They sell only from their front gate. You have to make an appointment and there's a limit: two, 24-bottle cases a month. Because scarcity has created a high-priced gray market online, the monks search the net for resellers and try to get them to stop.

"We sell beer to live, and not vice versa," says Brother Joris, the white-robed brewery director. Beer lovers, however, seem to live for Westvleteren.

When Jill Nachtman, an American living in Zurich, wanted a taste recently, she called the hot line everybody calls the beer phone. After an hour of busy signals, she finally got through and booked a time. She drove 16 hours to pick up her beer. "If you factor in gas, hotel -- and the beer -- I spent $20 a bottle," she says.

Until the monks installed a new switchboard and set up a system for appointments two years ago, the local phone network would sometimes crash under the weight of calls for Westvleteren. Cars lined up for miles along the flat one-lane country road that leads to the red brick monastery, as people waited to pick up their beer.

"This beer is addictive, like chocolate," said Luc Lannoo, an unemployed, 36-year-old Belgian from Ghent, about an hour away, as he loaded two cases of Westvleteren into his car at the St. Sixtus gate one morning. "I have to come every month."

Two American Web sites, Rate Beer and Beer Advocate, rank the strongest of Westvleteren's three products, a dark creamy beer known as "the 12," best in the world, ahead of beers including Sweden's Närke Kaggen Stormaktsporter and Minnesota's Surly Darkness. "No question, it is the holy grail of beers," says Remi Johnson, manager of the Publick House, a Boston bar that has Westvleteren on its menu but rarely in stock.

Some beer lovers say the excitement over Westvleteren is hype born of scarcity. "It's a very good beer," says Jef van den Steen, a brewer and author of a book on Trappist monks and their beer published in French and Dutch. "But it reminds me of the movie star you want to sleep with because she's inaccessible, even if your wife looks just as good."

WSJ's John Miller travels through Belgium in a quest for a small-batch brew made by Trappist monks that's considered by some the best beer in the world.

Thanks to the beer phone, there are no more lines of cars outside the monastery now. But production remains just 60,000 cases per year, while demand is as high as ever. Westvleteren has become almost impossible to find, even in the specialist beer bars of Brussels and local joints around the monastery.

"I keep on asking for beer," says Christophe Colpaert, manager of "Café De Sportsfriend," a bar down the road from the monks. "They barely want to talk to me." On a recent day, a recorded message on the beer phone said St. Sixtus wasn't currently making appointments; the monks were fresh out of beer.

Increasing production is not an option, according to the 47-year-old Brother Joris, who says he abandoned a stressful career in Brussels for St. Sixtus 14 years ago. "It would interfere with our job of being a monk," he says.

Belgian monasteries like St. Sixtus started making beer in the aftermath of the French Revolution, which ended in 1799. The revolt's anti-Catholic purge had destroyed churches and abbeys in France and Belgium. The monks needed cash to rebuild, and beer was lucrative.

Trappist is a nickname for the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, who set up their own order in La Trappe, France, in the 1660s because they thought Cistercian monasteries were becoming too lax. The monks at St. Sixtus sleep in a dormitory and stay silent in the cloisters, though they speak if they need to. Today, though, Trappists are increasingly famous for making good beer.

Seven monasteries (six are Belgian, one, La Trappe, is Dutch) are allowed to label their beer as Trappist. In 1996, they set up an alliance to protect their brand. They retain lawyers in Washington and Brussels ready to sue brewers who try use the word Trappist. Every few months, Brother Joris puts on street clothes and takes the train to Brussels to meet with fellow monks to share sales and business data, and plot strategy.

The monks know their beer has become big business. That's fine with the brothers at Scourmont, the monastery in southern Belgium that makes the Chimay brand found in stores and bars in Europe and the U.S. They've endorsed advertising and exports, and have sales exceeding $50 million a year. They say the jobs they create locally make the business worthy. Other monasteries, which brew names familiar to beer lovers such as Orval, Westmalle and Rochefort, also are happy their businesses are growing to meet demand.

[tk Joris]

Not so at St. Sixtus. Brother Joris and his fellow monks brew only a few days a month, using a recipe they've kept to themselves for around 170 years.

Two monks handle the brewing. After morning prayer, they mix hot water with malt. They add hops and sugar at noon. After boiling, the mix, sufficient to fill roughly 21,000 bottles, is fermented for up to seven days in a sterilized room. From there the beer is pumped to closed tanks in the basement where it rests for between five weeks and three months. Finally, it is bottled and moved along a conveyor belt into waiting cases. Monks at St. Sixtus used to brew by hand, but nothing in the rules of the order discourages technology, so they've plowed profits into productivity-enhancing equipment. St. Sixtus built its current brewhouse in 1989 with expert advice from the company then known as Artois Breweries.

In the 1980s, the monks even debated whether they should continue making something from which people can get drunk. "There is no dishonor in brewing beer for a living. We are monks of the West: moderation is a key word in our asceticism," says Brother Joris in a separate, email interview. "We decided to stick to our traditional skills instead of breeding rabbits."

The result is a brew with a slightly sweet, heavily alcoholic, fruity aftertaste.

One day recently, the wiry, sandy-haired Brother Joris returned to his office in the monastery after evening prayers. He flipped on his computer and went online to hunt for resellers and ask them to desist. "Most of the time, they agree to withdraw their offer," he says. Last year, St. Sixtus filed a complaint with the government against two companies that refused --, a Web site that sells beer, cheese, chocolate and other niche products, and Beermania, a Brussels beer shop that also sells online. Both offer Westvleteren at around $18 a bottle.

"I'm not making a lot of money and I pay my taxes," says owner Bruno Dourcy. "You can only buy two cases at once, you know." Mr. Dourcy makes monthly two-hour car trips from his home in eastern Belgium.

"Seek the Kingdom of God first, and all these things will be given to you," counters Brother Joris, quoting from the Bible, adding that it refers only to things you really need. "So if you can't have it, possibly you do not really need it."

Eees coas versus Wes coas....

I hope no one shows up with their Glocks this weekend as the West Belgians are trading shots with the New Belgians. Classic old school gansta' style rivalries being built on the Cross Crusade forum right before the USGP's make their way to Portland this coming weekend.

More training today with za PowerSnap to see where the flock I am. Felt unbelievable yesterday like I am building which is great. Vee shall see what comes of it this weekend and next but ultimately I just want to be respectable in January. I've modified my goals for this season so the head is on right these days. Racing between CO States and Belgium in January will be non existent unless I make my way to CA for some Peak Season stuff. I have to be in SF late December so this may work out.

'Cross on.

The Wed Morning Cross World Championships...No 11

Ah, so good to be back home again and participate in the Wednesday Worlds throw-down. 32 degrees this AM and we had a monster crew. While waiting at Amante, the clock was ticking towards 8AM and there were a handful of folks then nearly at the stroke of 8, it's like all these 'crossers just materialized out of the thin, cold air.

Elks was the first stop and teh conditions were cherry. Tacky, no slop and fast. The 45 or so of us lined up and I started the count down when Matty-O yells GO! and caught us all with our pants down. I was in like 10th place and and still trying to clip in when I finally caught my stride and passed a bunch of dudes and waited until we ggot to the barriers to do more damage.

Two weeks of rest. No races, limited work outs and indeed, I felt fast. I could feel a certain depth that hasn't been there in a long time. All corners were sprung out of and all flat sections out of the saddle sprints to raise the tempo. Lately, I'd have been sitting and trying to recover! Now, I just need to sit on this, tune what's in me and try to uncork a bit during these last few CO races before some training then rest before Belgium.

Oh, silly me. I've been boring you! You're here for the pics! The standard digital celluloid:

The Mullet of the WB. Extremely impressive. Probably too much wind resistance though.

Hup hup, Danny. Good luck at Nats!!

Danny again....

Teton: Man, myth, legend. You were going well today man!

Dan and Bill. Dan, start going slower so they don't upgrade you. Ha!


The legend Charlie Hayes running a 42 x 16 SS!!

JHK's new toy. Mmm, Dugast Rhino 45's. Mmmm.

Matty Opp, JHK and Heather

Matt P and his 39 x 18 Primus Mootry he's been making people suffer behind

Happy Birthday Mud and Cowbells

November 28th, my faithful M & C readers, this blog celebrates its one year anniversary. Man, what the _ _ _ _ happened to the year!? Where has it gone?!?! I was checking in on Radio Freddy's a few days ago and noticed his beautiful site's one year anniversary which reminded me to look back in the annals for that very first post. Holy crappola! November 28th 2006!

What M & C is, is nothing more that an electronic scratchpad I wanted to start as a personal journal. That's what blogs are, right? So I made it into sort of a day to day thing documenting my experiences on quasi daily basis of what being a husband, daddy, worker and bike racer is about from the balance perspective....with the intent that come hell or high water, I would get my ass to Belgium...going to church so to experience what 'cross really is.....or maybe I know what it is and want to know from where it came. Whatever the case, more often than not, it was a place to digitally scream to something. Unfortunately you are all the victims of my rants and absolute psychoticness.

But, crazy psycho episodic rants aside, EVERY single good thing in my life from the time I was 5 years old derived from bikes, cross included and hopefully this Belgium goal a continuing extension of it. Literally, everything is linked together through bikes for the last 30+ years in this sort of beautiful unfolding tale that I am also enamored with when I reflect on it:

  1. Learn how to ride a bike at Ted Stoica's 4th birthday party, 1975
  2. Get my own bike in kindergarten that year and begin my obsession.
  3. Create a bike gang of 5-8 year olds. We are the Thunderbirds.
  4. Start dirt jumping with the T-birds Evil Kneivel style in elementary school
  5. Learn to race BMX (decently) and ride ramps (badly) in middle school in the early 80's and gt my first racing license (an NBL license if you remember that!). Eddie Fiola is my hero.
  6. Learn dad gets job transfer summer before I start high school in mid 80's. Parents bribe me with a Shogun racing 10 speed because this guy Greg Lemond is doing things over there in Europe and "10 speed bike racing" is getting cool.
  7. The Shogun gathers dust while I revert back to my GT Pro Performer and start riding around the streets of NJ and BMX again becomes a proxy for meeting new peeps
  8. Race more, jump more meet absolutely CORE people.
  9. Go to college in the late 80's and learn about this thing called 'mountain biking'. I learn its a big BMX bike.
  10. Drink incredible amounts of Piels and Gennesee Light and get fat.
  11. Get inspired by Chris by senior year to go and ride ride ride
  12. Graduate and flounder and move to Cape Cod, get my own MTB and ride every day. No shirt, no helmet, Hi-Tech hiking boots. I get tan and get back to some fitness.
  13. Finally get embarrassed enough that I need to get a job, move back from the Cape and find one in NYC. I slave all week and blow out the weekends up and down the East Coast racing MTB's
  14. Grow the obsession. Start buying magazines with pretty pictures of radsters in CA riding insane MTB's reading them cover to cover on the subway to and from work and.
  15. Start using this thing called the internet in the mid 90's and find this bike guy in CA called "Rock Lobster" and get info on his bikes.
  16. Get obsessed with Rock Lobster and Bontrager bikes and decide California is the place I ought to be so I loaded up the truck and I move to ah...SF
  17. Move to SF, buy a Rock Lobster (actually many...) and find Mecca in Marin and Santa Cruz and meet a group of people who are literally family now...with no less than THREE marriages spawned by our group meeting an connecting
  18. Then meet my beautiful (now) wife. We ride into the proverbial sunset....
  19. Race more, work more, grow more and learn of something called 'cross in 96.
  20. Meet the most amazing bike freaks and they become brothers and sisters.
  21. Cross more. Including wearing a dress while doing so.
  22. Procreate and yield two little Irishmen.
  23. Decide that Boulder might be a better place to raise them thar kids (that being the guise for a better 'cross scene) and we made a decision in a weekend and move.
  24. Meet the most amazing bike freaks and they too become brothers and sisters...
Get the pattern?

So Belgium. Now do you see? It's like No. 25 on this growing list of things that have so expanded and enriched my life and those around me. It also was a goal to help me laser focus on something during this year...a year I KNEW would be turbulent and it materialized that way. Remember that scene in Star Wars (the original one....not the computer animated shit), when Luke is in the X Wing and needs to drop that bomb in that tunnel to blow up the Death Star and the commander over his head set is shouting "Stay on target...stay on target...". Well, that's what Belgium has been. Belgium (or the promise of getting my act together to go was that little control tower voice helping me to push day by day...for bad or for worse. Creating new channels in the universe and exposing me to what I hope will be the truth about our sport.

I will be sure to blog it.

Thanks for reading. Thank you my beautiful wife for this experience.

Bravo Procycling mag!!

There is hope ladies and gents. A magazine with a fairly wide distribution followed through on their promise from about this time last year....and that was to give 'cross some due coverage. So I sent them an email to say KUDOS by looping back and reading good 'ol Mud and Cowbells dot com.

So here goes:
To the Procycling staff:

You did it! You embraced the tidal wave otherwise known as cyclocross and I am immensely happy. The coverage in your December 2007 issue was spectacular. The stories, photos and tech articles gave a great insight to the now full time discipline of 'cross for your readers to learn about. I've been a subscriber to Procycling for time ad infinitum and I enjoyed the fact you are one of the first long standing road cycling mags to not treat it as the 'winter training sport' pro roadies traditionally leveraged to keep the fat off after drinking too much Leffe and eating too much chevres on their winter holidays. Cross is life for so many cycling enthusiasts now. The specialization of the sport over the last decade (most intensely the last 5 years here in the States) has both racer and bike industry person enamored.

Let's look at it from the angle of the Procycling reader's typical demographic (and I'm venturing a guess here!):

Exhibit A) 25-55 males with full time jobs and likely families to boot.

Now take that info and lay that over the top of the sport of 'cross:

Exhibit B) Races that are 45 minutes to an hour of absolute fun (OK, fun is relative to how much suffering you want to take) putting riders on courses that their entire family can watch them lap after lap slog through the mud, jump over barriers and be treated to a carnival atmosphere. Pretty different to a road race where you wave goodbye to your loved one and see them in 3.5 to 5 hours.

What do you have: A perfect match when you combine the two.

The tidal wave is reaching its crest and the bike industry is waking up to it. Racer fields are growing and the availability of specific frames, tires, bits and training knowledge are creating a frenzy of information need. And you supplied some goodness. Kudos!

Greg Colorado-USA

Nice work Procycling!

(all photos credited to Procycling magazine - December 2007)

Turning the engine over

Got out with the Boups-man early this AM before work to get the engine fired back up. For me, it's exactly like getting your '84 VW diesel warmed up and moving. Once that fuel's been un-gelled, I'm OK.

Today was beautiful and cold. Frost on the ground here and Boups and I did some nice flowy tempo stuff on our trail network. We caught up which was good and talked cross like school boys.

I woke up this morning feeling a bit tired but the rest has helped. The legs still feel heavy but not in the way just after lots of work, more in the way that the work is all in there but you need to crack the muscles open and get 'em going again. More openers again this week and then on to finish up the season over the next two weekends.

I need to get to the bank for a little wire transfer action to pay the place we're staying at in Belgium. The crew is set and we are stoked. I really can not wait! I just need to stay healthy and get some good training and rest in December and early Jan before I get on the big plane over there. The ultimate vacation...


Ah, back in the Republic. 4 AM wakeup this AM for a 5 AM flight from Spokane back to DIA. We nailed it and the kids were total champs. A few small Ben 10 toys helped to enure the correct amount of 5 and 3 year old cooperation. All spoiling rules go out the window at 5AM ....and when you are traveling with kids.

The vacation was spectacular. Ball family: We love and miss you. It was so unbelievable fun to hang and share this vacation with you. Best of luck on your journey back to the old home!

So, we got home pretty early, unpacked and I basically immediately got on the bike. I couldn't wait! I have found that I truly missed riding while taking this last week or so off. I guess that is the intent! That and watching Ruddervoorde 07 with Joe got the juices flowing for sure. I rolled with Taro on the cross bikes and we spun out the legs on all of the cherry dirt paths that spider thier way across the Republic. Frankly, it was good to get some mud on the bikes! It's all been so dry and fast this season!
Taro's still recovering from La Ruta. The stories he talked me through sounded epic. Like a total recall of what the Tour must have been like in the early days where epic conditions and local knowledge and "support" made the race truly epic.

More races out here in a FINALLY crossy Colorado today, but obviously I could not make it given the travel. The race reports I am sure will be coming in today and I'm looking forward to hearing what went down. For me, I've got some catch up to do but the rest was so welcome.

See you chumps at the Wednesday Worlds.